A moose looks for a bite to eat in a lawn on Beaver Loop Road in this photo taken Tuesday Nov. 24, 2015 in Kenai, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion, file)

A moose looks for a bite to eat in a lawn on Beaver Loop Road in this photo taken Tuesday Nov. 24, 2015 in Kenai, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Biologists: Avoid grumpy moose during winter’s end

Alaska’s moose are big, beautiful and currently quite cranky — and biologists are warning people to be extra careful around them for the time being.

As winter wears on, moose get tired and irritable as they wade through deep snow searching for the nutrient-poor food sources still available to them, said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Soldotna office.

“They’ll tend to get more aggressive as food items get sparser,” he said.

In recent years when Alaska experienced very mild winters, moose had more food options closer to the ground that were exposed for them, Selinger said. During a winter like this one, the animals spend months in a nutrition deficit, he said, working harder and eating things like nutrient-poor twigs in bulk to get through.

This deficit, which lasts until green vegetation is exposed again in the spring, makes moose grumpy and more likely to be aggressive during encounters with humans or pets.

“They do tend to get shorter fuses this time of year,” said Fish and Game Public Information Officer Ken Marsh. “… They’re tired, they’re irritable, probably like most other Alaskans in some ways.”

Fish and Game has gotten several reports of moose attacks or aggressive encounters from areas including Anchorage, Palmer and Homer in recent weeks, according to a Tuesday release from the department.

Staff at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood shot and killed a moose Sunday after it was seen charging a group of people near an upper-mountain ski lift, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. Members of the resort first contacted the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, but Marsh said authorities aren’t always notified of aggressive moose encounters, or that Fish and Game staff hear about them secondhand from Wildlife Troopers.

“A lot of them go unreported and end up on social media, too,” Marsh said.

It’s important to get in touch with Fish and Game or Wildlife Troopers if people notice an aggressive or problematic moose in the neighborhood, he said, rather than taking matters into one’s own hands. Authorities can often help people avoid negative encounters altogether, and therefore avoid having to put a moose down unnecessarily, he said.

Not all moose are extra aggressive this time of year — it’s just more likely.

“One of the biggest points I need to make is (that) every moose out there isn’t a mean moose or an aggressive moose,” Selinger.

The moose habitat in Game Management Unit 15A, for example, is poor compared to a more decent habitat in unit 15C, he said. The moose in 15A are therefore more nutritionally stressed than those in 15C, Selinger said, and potentially more likely to show signs of aggression, though every moose is different.

Feeding hungry moose, which is illegal, might seem like a logical solution, but Marsh and Selinger said that actually contributes to the problem. When moose become accustomed to getting food from certain people in the neighborhood and that food source goes away or the moose moves on to a new area, it can take out its frustration on surrounding people or pet dogs, they said.

Loose or poorly-contained garbage can create similar issues.

“They’ll defend dumpsters,” Selinger said.

Ingesting things like plastic from neighborhood garbage can also be fatal for the animals, he said. While most people think bears are the biggest things to be concerned about when it comes to their trash, Selinger said it’s important to secure it even when bears aren’t around.

The tips for avoiding aggressive moose this time of year are much the same as during any other time. Those who come upon the animals while out walking or in the neighborhood should try to get around them while giving them as much space as possible, or turn around and go back the way they came.

“This time of year, considering the fact that they’re a little bit more cranky … they’re going to be a little less likely to give up the trail right now,” Marsh said. “… They’re going to want to stay on that nice packed trail.”

Keeping dogs secured inside their yards and leashed when out and about is also a good idea, Selinger said. Dogs barking at moose can stress them more, and they might take that stress out on the next dog or person they come across, he said.

While it’s never a good idea to get to close to a moose, Marsh said this time of year requires more caution than usual.

“Don’t push it … definitely give them more space than you normally would,” he said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, right, meet with reporters in Micciche’s office in the early morning hours of Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska, after the Legislature ended its regular session. Micciche, a Republican, and Begich, a Democrat, discussed their working relationship, as well as well as parts of the session they were either pleased with or disappointed with. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
After House balks at bigger figure, budget OK’d with $3,200 payout per Alaskan

Budget finishes as second-largest in state history by one measure, but Dunleavy could make cuts

Loren Reese, principal at Kenai Alternative High School, gives Oliver Larrow the Mr. Fix It award Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Alternative graduates 22, says goodbye to principal

The ceremony included special awards customized for students

Graduates throw their caps into the air at the end of Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We never fell down’

Soldotna High School honors more than 100 graduates

Brandi Harbaugh gives a presentation during a joint work session on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Mill rate decrease, max school funding included in proposed borough budget

The final document is subject to approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

The 2022 graduating class of River City Academy celebrates Tuesday, May 17, 2022, outside of Skyview Middle School just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
River City Academy says goodbye to 19 grads, 2 original staff members

Tuesday’s graduation was the last for two staff members who have been with the school since its beginning

Lawmakers from both bodies of the Alaska State Legislature mingle in the halls of the Alaska State Capitol on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, the last day of the legislative session, following the Senate’s passing of the state’s budget bill. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Senate agrees to budget, House has until midnight

With hours left in session, House members remain divided

Renewable IPP CEO Jenn Miller presents information about solar power during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly OKs new tax exemptions for independent power producers

The ordinance was brought forth in response to a proposed solar farm on the Kenai Peninsula

Kenai Central High School graduates throw caps at the end of their commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Make a great life’

Kenai Central High School graduates more than 75 students

A black bear gets into a bird feeder in April 2005 at Long Lake, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Watch out for bears, moose

Take precautions to keep attractants away from bears and give moose and calves space

Most Read